How I Started Selling on Amazon and the Experiences that Followed

I first started selling on Amazon in September of 2013. I was recruited by a representative on Amazon that summer and over the course of a few months, I diligently worked on compiling a spreadsheet for them. He created a Brand account for me and held my hand (metaphysically) through the entire process. At that time, I was selling on both my website and Etsy and had just opened my retail store (not to mention my daughter was about 6 months at the time), so this was a new challenge to add to the mix.

My sales in the first few months were sad, but still probably better than I did on my website. I had about 5 sales a week for the first 2 months. It was pretty easy to manage. I shipped directly through Amazon’s interface, but pulling orders was time consuming.

At this point in my business I had not been pre-packaging any of my products, so as an order came in, I manually counted out what I was shipping and sealed them in a little plastic baggie. Selling on Amazon was really an experiment for me.

Three months passed and I spent the holidays working on adding new products to Amazon. I went from earning $100 a month on Amazon to about $400 a month by summertime. I had also moved my shop to a busier location and bought a counting scale to help me package. Believe it or not, I was counting out all my inventory manually for a year before my husband asked me one day, “Have you ever tried using a counting scale?” Not sure why it took him nearly a year for him to realize if I had, I would have used one.

What a life saver….a year late.

Amazon sales kept steady for the remainder of 2014 and it kept growing in 2015. I had very little competition on Amazon until mid 2015. More on that in just a bit. Fast forward to 2018 and Amazon continues to brings in about 40% of our revenue, allowing me to support my entire family while my husband concentrates on designing a multi-channel inventory syncing software for me. (The slated release of this amazing software is February of 2019, so stay tuned).

I am reaching my 5 year anniversary of selling on Amazon and I have learned many lessons on adaptation and reorganization. A couple years after selling on Amazon, a flood of Chinese sellers jumped on boat, tipping the scale for small businesses like mine. My best selling item, which I was selling for $25-30 suddenly dropped to zero sales. I did a little research and found that my best selling product was being offered by Chinese sellers for only $3.

That was a huge blow and I had just invested an additional $1000 into that inventory (and for the record, I still have 3 boxes of it). It hit my bottom line pretty hard. I had to step back from my business on Amazon and make some decisions. Sales had died and I needed to figure out how to get it back. The novelty of Prime was kicking in and I evaluated my options.

I packaged up all that extra inventory I couldn’t sell and sent it Amazon for Fulfillment. I also had to drop my prices to about $8 which included shipping. This also got me reevaluating my shipping costs. I had so many people complaining about shipping costs on a $3 item. I changed my products to include all my shipping charges. So instead of $3 plus shipping, I changed the item to $6 with free shipping. To my Amazon customers this was a great deal. FREE SHIPPING!!!

To help offset some of the shipping costs I also offer customers 10% off for multiple item purchases. It helped re-energize my sales.

As time passed, most of those initial Chinese sellers all were removed from Amazon. Understand that Amazon has a strict 48 hour shipping policy. You have to ship within 48 hours to keep your account in good standing. I believe there are exceptions with how you set up your account, but my account was set up for 48 hours shipping time.

Luckily this does not include weekends, so I don’t have to ship on Saturdays. If you miss shipping deadlines, your ratings decline and Amazon will not show your products on the the first several pages even if it is relevant to a product search. They will eventually remove sellers that have a negative rating, which is why all those Chinese sellers disappear shortly after they arrive. I still see this true. There have been a few products of mine this has happened to.

A few years passed and a friend at my daughter’s school told me how she had received a follow up email from an Amazon seller, checking in and asking for feedback. She suggested I do the same because she felt a personal connection to them. I thought that was a great idea and proceeded to sign up with a service that sends follow up emails. I’m not going to mention the company here because the guy has some other businesses that seem like a bit of a scam, but the email software works for me. On a side note, the email follow ups will be a feature of our software, so no extra $40 a month for that pretty soon.

The reviews really helped my page ranking too. Having the reviews on my Amazon store has been really good for business.

Amazon has another feature called Enhanced Brand Content that I have taken advantage of. I’m not sure what the deal is, if this is a feature for Brand accounts only, or if anyone can use them. They changed their Brand requirements since I joined, but I’m kind of grandfathered in. The new requirement is that you have to have a trademark of some kind to be able to have a Brand Account. Having a Brand account also negates the requirement of having UPCs.

What the Enhanced Brand Content does for me is it allows me to have a custom description for a product including additional images. This is what my underwire listing looks like.

There is also an Amazon advertising account that is linked to your store, but thats a whole other animal that I won’t be discussing here. If you are interested, comment below and I will see what I can whip up for you.

Amazon has been a fun experiment in growing my business. I feel like I got in early, but maybe I’m just seasoned now. I’ll have to write another post about how I got selling on Walmart too, but today I need to go to the gym and get a little work out in.

Check out my Amazon shop here: Porcelynne Amazon Store

Pattern Drafting Book Review Series – Part 2 – Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern By Fairchild Publishing

Introducing the second book in my pattern making review series, titled Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern.

For those you who did not read the first part, here is a my disclaimer: I am a fashion design teacher and author. I am in the process of completing my own introductory pattern drafting book. I have worked my way through many books in the industry. I love parts of all of them, but other parts I dislike. I have written this series with the most impartial view I could have as a teacher.

I love all of my books, especially since these are the ones that made the cut to sit on my bookshelf. I won’t be reviewing any of the books that did not make it into staying in my collection. Know these are great reference books. Here you can see my inappropriately loaded shelves that have collapsed. Sorry for the lousy photo, but I have to crouch between two sewing machines for this shot. Nothing has fallen out of the shelves, so until that day comes This broken shelf will remain.

To start, this is definitely the most thorough book in drafting that I own. It covers everything, except draft by measure. This book provides a 1/4 scale slopers for drafting all the examples throughout the book. If you prefer to work in half scale, you can copy and scale up the patterns 200%.

If you understand the basics in pattern drafting, dart manipulation and how to turn a draft into a pattern, this book is awesome. It is definitely NOT an introductory book. You will need prior knowledge or you may get frustrated and walk away. The drafting steps are very brief. In the beginning, each page has multiple examples on it with only a paragraph of information.

What I love about this book: It is great for visual learners. I can depict what a picture says without the text, but unfortunately it took me years to get to this level of drafting. It covers everything! From skirts to jackets to pants to dresses, it covers it all.

What I dislike: It is very advanced. It is not for a first or even second year student in design. I believe it is more of a graduate level book. You must have a strong foundation of drafting to follow this book. Several of the drafting steps in the book also use the letter/number instruction steps which I have a hard time following. A teacher could follow this book to teach, but I would question whether the student could follow on their own.

If you are just starting on a pattern drafting path, put this on your wishlist. It is an expensive book, but will be worth it once you learn from the introductory books. Here is the Amazon link (this is an affiliate link – affiliate links help support my business). It looks like the last version of this book came out in 1992. Designing Apparel Through the Flat Pattern

Pattern Drafting Book Review Series – Part 1 – Patternmaking for Fashion Design by Helen Armstrong

So here is my disclaimer: I am close to completing my own an introductory pattern drafting book but I felt it would be a good idea to explain why I decided to write my book in the first place. To do this, I feel the need to discuss the other great pattern books I hold near and dear in my collection. Before you stop reading with certain assumptions of a skewed review, know that I own all these books and still refer to them when I have a difficult project. I do not believe my book will be superior to any of these, but a different instructional take on the same material.

I do not believe that someone should only have one pattern making book and live by its word alone. It is important that when working in the fashion industry, you are aware of all the techniques out there, which is why I have so many.

I am starting this review series with Helen Armstrong’s book Patternmaking for Fashion Design.

I have actually owned four separate editions of this book, three while teaching pattern drafting at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Although, I purchased my first book right after I completed my schooling at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I bought it off of eBay back before Y2K. The last days of the 90s. Oh, how I miss your carefree days of being single and living in NYC.

My purchase was of the first edition from 1987. To quickly compare the four different editions that I owned, the first edition was, by far, the best in my opinion. For that reason, I parted ways with all the others.

In general, the book is really good for beginners, but as a teacher, it was very frustrating having to relearn the “new method” of drafting each edition change. Every book ended with virtually the same outcome. I taught for about 9 years and the editions changed every 2-3 years. Each edition had changes to their directions.

As a teacher, it was expected that we taught in the same manner that the book demonstrates. Every time a new edition came out, we had days of training on using the new steps and making notes on the changes we needed to make, in order to make the patterns fit our dress forms correctly.

Other than the direction changes between the editions, not much else changed except for maybe the illustrations. I felt the first edition was closest to perfection, but why mess with perfection? Profit is the answer.

Whichever edition you get your hands on, you will get a great addition to your library. As you can see, I have post-its throughout my book for easy referencing. I put these post-its in there about 15 years ago and I have never had a need to remove them.

What I love about this book: the draft by measure slopers came out pretty accurate for fit for the dress form. The pattern manipulation is also pretty inclusive and has a lot of great exercises to hone in on your skill development.

What I dislike about this book: the drafting instructions were very hard for me to follow. My biggest pet peeve with any pattern making book is they are very technical in nature and not written for a visual learner with a short attention span.

Directions by letter/number reference are difficult for me. I constantly look at the wrong letter and make the measurements in the wrong step. I have issues telling certain letters apart so I get confused easily. I am also not a fan of the “standard” measurements used for darts, but all my books do this, so its not exclusive to this book. There aren’t many measurements that are consistent across all sizes, so the “standard” measurement is misleading for those that are either large busted or over a size 8.

My other pet peeve is related to teaching from this book. Patternmaking for Fashion Design covers so many options and designs, that I discovered my students were too afraid to try something that wasn’t in the book. They got this idea in their head that because the book was so thorough, if it wasn’t covered, the design was not possible.

I have probably used this book more than most of my other books combined. This is a great reference book, but is better when you have an instructor walking you through it.

There is a paperback version available on Amazon. It states it was printed in China. I have honestly never seen it priced this cheap, so I would question the quality of the printing, but for $20, you can’t beat it. I just hope it was printed legally. The normal price is over $100. Note that this is an affiliate link. It helps me keep up my blog to offer affiliate links. Patternmaking for Fashion Design

The First Laurel Sports Bra Prototype is Complete

I was able to complete the Laurel Sports Bra prototype this weekend while my daughter sewed her first project – a pillow for her bear.

I played around with a few new construction techniques for the sports bra – the main being a clean finished waistband on the inside. The last sports bra I made itched like crazy at the band. I assume it was because I had to sew over the waistband twice and the threads bothered me. After I washed it, it didn’t bother me, but it got me thinking that a clean finished waistband would be beneficial.

With clean finishing the waistband, I had forgotten to clean finish the keyhole in the back prior to sewing the waistband on. I still need to hash out how to complete the keyhole/waistband.

I had to seam rip a little bit in the back, but it wasn’t ideal.

I made a fun criss cross alteration to the waistband which worked out pretty well, although I will need to alter the pattern so the lower waistband part isn’t so tight.

I also made the straps adjustable with my new 35mm black bra sliders, but I was trying to utilize all my scraps and cut the strap out on the wrong grain and it sure made a difference. It might be too thick to have covered straps, but I’ll have to test the strap when cut and sewn correctly.

I also added a hook and eye closure, but I cut off about 3/8″ on both sides and I really shouldn’t have.

I haven’t had a chance to try it on yet to test the fit, but I’m nursing a headache today and don’t feel like putting on a bra.

My daughter also had a very successful day. She sewed the hearts on to the pillow, then sewed the pillow. It still needs stuffing, but we don’t have any. She wasn’t done either, she also made a little purse completely on her own and I am very proud. She is inspired and wants to add pockets to everything.

All in all, both mom and daughter had a productive day sewing. Our plan was to sew the kid’s sized Rachel Tank as a swim top for her today, but this headache is keeping me couch bound.

In the works: The Laurel Sports Bra

Now that the pattern making book is almost ready to publish, I have decided to pick back up on some designing. My next pattern that I’m working on is called the Laurel Sports Bra. I am using the same grade rules as the Christina Sports Bra which will make it easy to interchange parts with the Laurel.

I completed my first draft of the Laurel. The front styleline goes into the neckline and the back has wider set straps. I also made the back for a hook and eye closure which will make it easier to take on and off for those of us large chested.

I have been wanting to experiment with a weaving pattern at the center front of the waistband. I couldn’t find my scraps of powermesh to do my lining, so I’ll finish up the sample another day, but I like the look so far. What do you think?

If this sample fits great, I will continue to create my pattern range of the 28A through the 52K. Hopefully this range won’t be too difficult since I mastered it once before.

I am also getting back to work on the illustration work I’ve been working on with a colleague and trying to carve out some time to work on more videos.

I started filming videos with my daughter to make her clothes. I made the Rachel Brief and Tank into a child size and am making her a bathing suit with the pattern. Maybe for once she will have a bathing suit that actually fits her torso.

I have a few more mounts for the video coming this way. I’m trying to do my set up so my husband doesn’t have to take off an entire day to do filming and then another day to do editing. Once we get our mounts on the ceiling it should make it easier to set up and make it more consistent for filming.

On the homefront, my daughter just finished her third day of kindergarten. I think she likes it. Her class has a color chart for behavior. Red being terrible behavior and White being perfect behavior. This is her third say of white and she is so proud. It sure beats those last few weeks of camp getting into fights and getting suspended. Yes, my 5 year old got suspended from camp. That was embarrassing. But she behaved well and Hanna took her over to my moms to go swimming. I think I will join suit and go for a swim. I deserve a little time with my monkey.

Rachel Brief Pattern and Video Release

New pattern and videos! Introducing the Rachel Brief.

I designed the Rachel Brief as a panty to go with the Rachel Tank. I created three different kits for the brief. The Rachel Brief is a high waisted panty with a contrast panel on the front and comes in sizes from XS through 3X. I also did a kids version, but that isn’t live on my website yet. I’ll make sure to announce that when it is. I filmed sewing videos of those with my daughter, but I’m not sure how they will turn out. Stay tuned for those.

Below are the videos for the Rachel Brief. Leave me a comment or feedback on them.

In other news, my daughter started Kindergarten yesterday. She is getting so big so fast. She started a public Montessori program. The school is about 5 times larger than the school she previously went to, so I’m a little discombobulated about it.

Here she is pretending to be a chipmunk with food in her cheeks. She is just so darn cute. 

Here in Florida they changed how our schools work in regards to campus safety. We have armed safety officers on campus now and all visitors must be chaperoned around school. I do admit having a gun on campus makes me nervous. I believe they start the run and hide gun drills next week. When I was in grade school all we had were tornado drills, which I remember scared the crap out of me. Who knows how the kids will respond to the gun drills. I fear it will cause nightmares.

This is an interesting world we are living in now. I think home school is on the agenda for middle and high school.

Not wanting to do my work

I’m sure you can all relate. I’m almost done with a project, but I just don’t want to work anymore on it, but I want it done. So, what do I do? I do random searches on Google and Etsy. Yeah. Not buying anything, just don’t want to work.

I am sitting here, on my computer, working on what may be my final edit of my drafting book and I just don’t want to do it. I am having to redo two of the exercises in the book with new illustrations and I am making excuses not to do it. I know I will finish this full edit today if I can just plow through it. Instead, I check Facebook and Instagram. Oh wait, now its lunch time. I’ll do it after lunch.

AGGGGGGG! Ok. I will stop procrastinating and get back to editing. I’ll finish this post when I’m done.

Update: 2 hours later and I finished those two exercises. It was terribly time consuming, but its done. Now I’m just taking a break after a snack. I’m on page 103 of 187 and the rest of the changes are small. So here I go again- back to the grind.

Update: 1 hour later and I’m up to page 167. I only have 20 pages to go, but the next chapter has some major changes I forgot about. I’m not so concerned about this chapter though. I’m only adding a few steps here and not completely redoing the illustrations. I’m done for the day. My daughter is home from camp so I’ll pick up again tomorrow.

Update: I finished up the full book of changes. Yay!

I’m not sure I really mentioned what I am working on, but maybe I have. I’m having a brain fart. I’ve been working on an introductory pattern drafting book since I opened my store in Redlands 5 years ago. It was a long process, but it is almost completely done. I am sending it off to my mentor, Dawn Marie, to review and fact check. I believe she is going to be writing me an amazing Foreword for the book. Here are a few pics and a sneak preview of the book.

While she is reviewing it, I will see if I can get it set up on Amazon for pre-sales. Either way, I plan to announce it onces its available.

On my ever growing project list is also a fashion illustration book I’ve been working on with one of my teachers from Redlands. I’ll post some pictures soon as it too is almost done! I will be working on the final layout changes next week. I’m really excited about this book as well.